My real story: William W

Age: 25

Education: Bachelor of Business in Hotel Management, The Hotel School Sydney (Southern Cross University)

Current position: Front Office Manager, Meriton Serviced Apartments World Tower

Number of years at the hotel? 2 years and 5 month

What does my role entail? As a Front Office Manager my role primarily focuses on the day-to-day operation management and strategic planning of the Front Office Department. This department comprises of a Guest Service Agent, Porters, Supervisors and Duty Managers. Through innovation and succession planning, my aim is to ensure the necessary support and guidance is provided to each individual staff member to maximise productivity, foster progression and achieve a high level of guest satisfaction. I also work closely with the Housekeeping and Maintenance team to ensure open communication and maintain a consistently high standard across all aspects of the hotel operations.

How I got my start in the hotel industry: Hotels have always been a big part of my childhood growing up. I was fortunate enough to live in 6 countries before I turned 18. Having travelled extensively with my parents, mainly due to my father’s work, I have stayed in many hotels across the world. Over the years, the collective experience and memories of staying in hotels has contributed strongly towards my desire to pursue a career in hotel/hospitality management.

Does anyone in your family work in a Hotel? In the 1980’s my mother worked in a luxury 5-star hotel in my hometown Nanjing, China.

Why do you like working in Hotels? There is something magical about hotels, when you walk into a hotel lobby, or room, or restaurant. Staying in hotels has always been a luxury experience. My favourite part of working in hotels is the freedom to express yourself and the ability to share your experience/knowledge with colleagues and guests.

What surprised you about working in hotels? As a guest I always thought that hotels would be a quiet and relaxing place to work. In reality, it’s the direct opposite. There are so many people working in the back of house to ensure the smooth running of all departments and aspects of operation. A guest of course will never see this.

What my career has looked like to date: Feels like yesterday but it’s been almost 7 years since i embarked on my first job in hotels. I started my internship with The Four Seasons Sydney as F&B wait staff; this was a compulsory unit of my course with The Hotel School Sydney (THSS). During my 3 year tenure with the company, I worked across a number of operation departments such as Room Service, Banquet, Front Office, Porter and Reservations. After graduating from THSS, I secured a position as Relief Night Manager with the Pullman International in Cairns. This provided a great opportunity not only for me to further develop within Front Office operations but also allowed me to move to a new location. After completing a year with the Pullman I applied for the Duty Manager position with the newly opened One & Only Hayman Island. This was a terrific opportunity for me to move away from overnight work and further continue my development into mid-management. I then decided to move back to Sydney to further my career. At this point I joined Meriton Serviced Apartments as a Duty Manager. After a year I was promoted into the role of Guest Service Manager. A further 6 months later I was promoted again into the role of Front Office Manager.

During your time at this Hotel, what has been your proudest moment? My proudest moment has to be my first internal promotion from Duty Manager to Guest Service Manager at Meriton Serviced Apartments.

What has been your greatest professional achievement to date? My greatest achievement was winning the 2016 Front Of House Employee of the Year award at the Tourism Accommodation Australia awards.

Where do you wish to go from here? My goal is to continue working within operations. I hope to further my career within Meriton and secure further opportunities within the company.

What challenges do you face in this role? As a Front Office Manager my roles and responsibilities can be extremely diverse. However one of the greatest challenges has always been the consumers’ ever-changing expectation when it comes to product and service quality, especially when it comes to a luxury experience. To ensure that we best meet and exceed customer expectations, I closely monitor our guest feedback, consumer trends and our competitors. It’s important to be open to change and innovation.

Why do you like working in the accommodation industry? The accommodation industry is like a big family, we network, share stories and pass on experiences. I personally find the industry very rewarding when it comes to opportunities both on a domestic and international stage. In Australia the accommodation industry is currently experiencing a strong boom which will no doubt create many more jobs and opportunities for the economy.

What message do you have to tell others about working in the accommodation industry? The accommodation industry is bigger and more diverse than you think. It offers many fantastic industry benefits and most importantly opportunities to travel and relocate both domestically and internationally. The industry is fun, vibrant and full of characters. You will no doubt meet some great personalities along the way.

What advice would you give to people considering a career in Hotels? When talking about working in hotels, most people tend to think that it’s solely reception work. In reality, any typical hotel offers a number of different departments. No matter what your background, as long as you enjoy working with people then you will most certainly find a suitable position in a hotel. A hotel is a community of its own, not a single day is the same. You will meet people from all over the world and you will learn a diverse range of skills that will open future opportunities.

Have you travelled as part of your career in Hotels? I’ve travelled to Cairns when I worked with the Pullman International and also Hayman Island when I worked with One & Only Resorts.

Have you met anyone famous during your career in Hotels? I’ve met and served a number of high profile guests and celebrities including the likes of Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias, Al Pacino and Toby Maguire.

Can you bust any Hotel career myths? Not much of a myth but the first few years in hotels no matter what role you are in is very hard work. Generally long hours and rarely will you have the weekend off. My longest run for straight working is 18 days. When i use to work in the hotel restaurant most days i get up at 3AM to open the restaurant at 5AM. On many occasions i work through breakfast, lunch and dinner services. Often finish pass midnight.

What training have you received from your employer as part of your professional development? I’ve worked with a number of high profile hotels chains, all of which have training and development programs in place. At Meriton Serviced Apartments professional development has focused on my operational knowledge, team management skills and productivity enhancement. Meriton Head Office offer a number of strategic workshops on a monthly basis to further enhance individual ability. These workshops include Effective Communication, Guest Complaint Handling, PMS/Reservation, Personal Leadership and Networking.

Tell us about one of your best Hotel experiences? One of my most memorable experiences came from a long stay guest at my current property Meriton World Tower. This particular guest travels from Indonesia twice a year for business and each time stays for over a month. He was a hotelier and owns a number of resorts in Indonesia. As we’re both very passionate about hotels and share many similar experiences, we developed a strong rapport. On his most recently stay he even invited me to travel to Bali and stay in his resort for free. From a service provider point of view this was very heartfelt and special.

Do you manage people? If yes, what is that like? In my current role I manage a team of 15 Agents, Porters, Supervisors and Duty Managers. Managing people is arguably the hardest task and I have taken inspiration from my past managers. When it comes to people management I believe in 3 things, support, trust and respect. When you treat your staff with respect, it brings out the best in them. The people of our organisation are truly our greatest asset.

What skills have you learnt on the job? In my current role some of the primary skills I have developed are team management, yield management and building management.

What are your working hours like? I am fortunate enough to have reached a position where I can work standard business hours. I have worked shifts and long hours for years, all of which have shaped me into the person I am today. No job is stress free however I am lucky to have a wonderful team to support me, and keep me entertained and motivated.

What’s the pay like? Generally speaking, the pay grade across the accommodation sector is fairly consistent between companies. However Meriton Serviced Apartments does pay above award wages/salary.

Anything else you’d like to add? The hotel industry is indeed very unique. I chose this career path not for the money, nor the glamour but because I was passionate about meeting people from all around the world and being able to become part of their experience by providing the best possible service.